Forty years later, Webber still on the job

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; When Clyde Ray Webber was installed as Concordia Parish Clerk of Court in 1965,

&8220;My Fair Lady&8221; won the Oscar for best film, stamps cost a nickel and Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

Forty years later, well, everything&8217;s changed. Everything except Webber, that is.

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And on Friday, local municipal and judicial leaders gathered to watch the veteran clerk cut the cake on the anniversary of his first day in office.

The Ferriday native was living in Houston when the political bug bit him.

It was there, while covering the courthouse and city hall as a journalist, that Webber gained a desire to get into politics.

&8220;The company wanted to transfer me to El Paso, and I did not want to go to El Paso,&8221; Webber said.

Sensing a change was coming, Webber and his wife Gwen moved back home where both got teaching jobs. Before long, he won a seat on the school board.

The chaotic state of the clerk&8217;s office was a hot topic of discussion, and Webber mentioned to some of his school board members that he would be interested in running for the job.

He never had to, because Governor John McKeithen ordered the office closed and the staff relieved of duty.

When he talked to locals about a replacement, Webber&8217;s name came up.

&8220;They wanted someone young and not connected to the local politics,&8221; Webber said.

A midnight call from the governor, after a false start &8212; &8220;I hung up on him, I thought it was a friend playing a joke&8221; &8212; and Webber was the new clerk of court.

Not that he had any experience.

&8220;I just went in and sat down, and the attorneys came in and sort of did what they do,&8221; he said. &8220;I had no idea what to do. I didn&8217;t know deeds, mortgages and lawsuits.&8221;

That changed quickly, however, as area clerks and members of the state auditor&8217;s office came in to help get things set up correctly.

&8220;I had a lot of help.&8221;

He&8217;s not shy about returning the favor.

&8220;He&8217;s helped me so much since I&8217;ve been in office,&8221; Catahoula Parish Clerk of Court Janet Payne said.

State Rep. Bryant Hammett said Webber has a state-wide reputation for his work and the fact that he keeps getting re-elected &8212; usually without opposition &8212; is a sign he&8217;s doing things right.

&8220;It&8217;s an obvious indicator of the excellent job he&8217;s doing,&8221; he said.

There&8217;s more to the job than just organizing and maintaining the court files, land records, running elections and issuing marriage licenses, however.

&8220;People come in and they don&8217;t understand how it works,&8221; Seventh Judicial District Judge Kathy Johnson said. &8220;They&8217;re confused and frustrated and he&8217;s really good at calming them down and helping them understand the process.&8221;

Webber shrugs this off, crediting his staff instead and saying they are all only doing their job.

&8220;Whenever anybody wants to see anything, they are welcome to come in and see it,&8221; he said.

While there may not be an 80th anniversary of his time in office, don&8217;t be surprised if there is a 50th.

&8220;I have no intention of slowing down, they&8217;re going to have to carry me out of here,&8221; he said.